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Macon teen with rare condition continues following soccer dream

Abigail Gleaton was one of Georgia first pediatric patients to receive a new and less-invasive procedure.

MACON, Ga. — From a black belt in Taekwondo to playing indoor and outdoor soccer, this 17-year-old teen is keeping herself busy, even with a rare condition.

Abigail Gleaton was born with a rare heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot. According to the American Heart Association, it's a heart defect that is more common in children with Down syndrome and DiGeorge syndrome. It's when there is poor blood flow to the heart.

Gleaton was 4 years old when she had open heart surgery. In July 2022, Gleaton had a new and improved procedure at Atlanta Children's Hospital.

"This new transcatheter valve has allowed us to use a more minimally invasive procedure that doesn't require an open chest operation," pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center, Dr. Dennis Kim said.

Her mom Nicole Gleaton told 13WMAZ her daughter played in a soccer game the night before her less invasive surgery. And eight weeks, after spending one night in the hospital, the junior at Academy for Classical Education (ACE) was back on the soccer field. Nicole Gleaton says she always encouraged her to do what she loves. 

"We've just always kind of gone with that mentality, 'As long as she can do it and the doctors are good with it, we are good with it,'" Nicole Gleaton said.

Assistant Dean of Students and soccer coach, Robby Jones says Gleaton has been the athlete to help and service her teammates and coaches.

"Not only does she contribute inside the lines, but she contributes outside the lines, and I think that's what makes her special and unique," Jones said.

According to Dr. Kim, Gleaton is one of the first pediatric patients to have this new implant. The Atlanta Heart Center is the only center in Georgia that is implanting these devices in children. Gleaton contributes her active lifestyle to why she is doing well today.

"In my head, it helped my heart," Gleaton said.

Gleaton says she doesn't let her rare condition define who she is and doesn't let it bother her.

"I was just thinking I've got to push myself. I've got to work as hard as I can because I might not be able to do this as long as I want to. I have to try my hardest, do my best, so I don't regret anything. So that I leave it all with good memories rather than regret not going my hardest," Gleaton said.

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